Sunday, May 29, 2016

Update on Liberty High enrollment projections

As I wrote about here, the board has been debating whether to assign the Kirkwood Elementary area to the Liberty High zone or the West High zone. The board recently voted 4-3 to assign Kirkwood to West High. One question that arose was what effect that assignment would have on enrollment at Liberty. Some were concerned that without Kirkwood, Liberty would not have the two hundred kids per class that the district saw as its initial goal. Others (including me) were concerned that sending Kirkwood to Liberty would cause Liberty’s enrollment to exceed its capacity as early as 2019, the first year it will have four full classes in the building.

(During Liberty’s first year of operation, the district is allowing juniors and seniors in the Liberty zone the option of staying at their previous high school; the same is true for seniors during Liberty’s second year. So it will not have four full classes until its third year, which is 2019-20.)

Projecting the enrollment at Liberty is not a straightforward task. The district’s most recent set of enrollment projections is of limited usefulness, since it makes projections based on our old set of elementary boundaries, which will not be the boundaries when Liberty opens. So the board asked the administration to make projections for Liberty based simply on moving forward the current cohorts of kids who are in the Liberty zone. For example, the kids who will be Liberty freshman in 2019 are this past year’s fifth-graders, so we can simply count the outgoing fifth-graders in Liberty’s zone and use that as an estimate of the 2019 freshman class.

Notice that that kind of projection is incomplete and inherently conservative, because it does not account for the expected population growth in the North Corridor. It also does not account for voluntary transfers into the Liberty zone, which could boost its attendance in the early years. (Under our current rules, voluntary transfers are not permitted once a building’s enrollment exceeds its capacity.) It also does not account for the possible decrease in open enrollment out to other districts (such as Clear Creek Amana) once Liberty is open.

This weekend, the administration provided those projections. The first one shows Liberty without Kirkwood included (click to enlarge):

The next one shows Liberty if Kirkwood is included (click to enlarge):

The projections show that Liberty will meet and exceed its goal of having two hundred kids per class as soon as it opens, even without Kirkwood being assigned there. (Any Liberty projection, however, is subject to the fact that there is no way to predict the junior and senior class enrollment in Liberty’s first year, or the senior class enrollment in its second year, because students in those years have the option of remaining at their previous school.)

The projections also show that if Kirkwood is assigned to Liberty, Liberty will be over capacity as soon as it has four full classes (in 2019). (Liberty's initial capacity will be 1000 students.) By 2021-22, the year before Liberty gets its 500-seat addition, the school would be at least 21% over capacity if Kirkwood is assigned there, plus whatever additional enrollment is attributable to population growth in the Corridor.

That said, the projected overcrowding is not as bad as I had anticipated in my previous post. My fellow board member Brian Kirschling argued that I had not accounted for the fact that enrollment in the North Corridor schools is currently disproportionately in the early grades, and you can definitely see that effect in these projections. Nonetheless, Kirkwood does put Liberty over capacity for three of its first five years—and again, these are conservative estimates.

The projections also give some idea of how much Liberty’s free-and-reduced-price lunch (FRL) rate would go up if Kirkwood is assigned there. (FRL is the district’s proxy for low-income status.) FRL status is hard to project into the future because it can vary with the economy and with housing patterns, and because it can change from year to year even as to any particular student, but it’s safe to say that when Liberty opens, its FRL would be closer to the district average, though still probably several percentage points below that of City High, if Kirkwood is assigned there.

Do these projections mean that Kirkwood cannot possibly be assigned to Liberty? No. The facilities master plan has always assumed that we can’t eliminate overcrowding overnight and that short-term overcrowding is a necessary evil—though it may be particularly hard to justify overcrowding when capacity is available elsewhere. What the projections do highlight is a tension between the goal of FRL balance and the goal of bringing enrollment in line with capacity. I continue to think that the main argument against assigning Kirkwood to Liberty is that we shouldn’t burden kids from low-income households with additional transportation barriers, as I wrote about here. But the capacity issue at Liberty is one more factor tilting against assigning Kirkwood there.


Anonymous said...

Kirkwood is within busing distance of West and Liberty so it can be sent to Liberty. There is also little time difference, if any, between the drive to West or Liberty from Kirkwood.

And new boundaries for high schools are not set so you could adjust boundaries to have a better FRL balance.

Overcapacity isn't a real problem until all schools are full.

Anonymous said...

It is refreshing to have board members carefully evaluating likely capacity concerns in North Liberty schools while making boundary decisions in light of the facilities master plan timeline that is in place. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

"Overcapacity isn't a real problem until all schools are full." DISAGREE. And, purposely putting Liberty at 120%+ capacity when the addition is on the bond is potentially a big problem.

If you remember, we moved Lincoln and Hills to City because it was under capacity and West was overcrowded.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 11:04,

Liberty wouldn't be at full capacity if some of the kids initially slated to go there were put at one of the other two high schools and that would help with balance. As you've pointed out, kids have been moved between schools in the past so now with three schools, there are more opportunities and no family is guaranteed a seat in Liberty.

Anonymous said...

Look at the numbers.

WITHOUT Kirkwood, in 2019 Liberty will have 890 kids, not including any growth or transfers back to the area. NL is rumored to be growing. By 2022, Liberty will have 1023 students, plus any growth or transfers. Liberty will be overcrowded WITHOUT Kirkwood and the addition is not guaranteed because it is on the bond which is regularly threatened.

WITH Kirkwood, in 2019 Liberty will have 1092 kids, not including any growth or transfers back to the area. That means Liberty will open overcrowded the first day it has all four grades. By 2022, it will have 1243 students, plus any growth. That almost 125% of capacity. And, again, the Liberty addition is on the bond which many people continue to threaten.

Because of the capacity issue and the uncertainty of the bond, the Board should wait until after the bond passes to move more kids to Liberty.

Anonymous said...

It is very sad the extent you appear to be willing to go to, and the upheaval you would be willing to wreck on children's lives to balance some numbers on a piece of paper.

Anonymous said...

Completely agree with waiting for the bond to pass before moving more kids to Liberty.

With current boundaries including only the closest kids/schools going to Liberty, it is 20% FRL and FULL in very short order.

After the Liberty addition is the only time it makes sense to move additional kids to Liberty.

Interesting how last week the argument was there aren't enough kids at Liberty without Kirkwood, and now the argument is that even the kids closest to Liberty should NOT have a guaranteed seat there.

How fast things change when the real data is presented.

Anonymous said...

By your standard then, overcapacity IS a real concern for Garner with all Coralville and North Liberty elementary schools being full to overcapacity. Yet even knowing that would be the case, the FMP was not altered to alleviate a 450 seat school being over 300 seats over capacity until a doomed bond has to pass. Meanwhile, prior Boards decided to close Old Hoover in order to get a new East side elementary school built under the guise of increasing efficiency. It is a guise because other much more inefficient schools were allowed to stay open.

No wonder NL people are concerned about how these same people want to stuff their junior high and high school significantly over capacity before they get bond dependent additions.

History has proven for decades now that capacity is a big problem in North Liberty schools. No more schools should be added to the Liberty feeder path until the bond is passed and the extra junior high AND high school seats are guaranteed to be there. I completely agree!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9:41 PM is hinting at moving North Liberty kids out of Liberty to make room for Kirkwood kids. Ridiculous. I've heard this suggested for Van Allen already. Be sure to ask the people hoping to secure the school board seat about this idea.

Anonymous said...

Would be helpful to see the same charts for West and CHS for comparison. In particlar, to understand whether one or both will be over capacity during the same period of time as well as their demographic makeup. Viewing Liberty in isolation seems a little disingenuous if the comparison numbers place those schools in an equally or more unfavorable position.

Anonymous said...

8:14 Anonymous, there are Coralville and N. Liberty kids who will attend Liberty so either could be moved.

I would also like to see the charts for City and West.

Thank you Chris.

Anonymous said...

When he is speaking of transportation issues for Kirkwood parents, he wasn't talking about being bussed to school. We realize that the distance is about the same to West or Liberty. What he was referring to is what happens if a child gets sick while at Liberty and that child is from a family who does not have a car and counts on the bus system. They would have to hire a cab or try and get a friend to go get them since there is no bus system that runs regularly through North Liberty.

Secondly what should those same families tell their children about participating in after school activities? Sorry, you can't participate because you have no way of getting home.

I know most don't think about these things because you think everyone has a car but remember that is not true and tons of people do rely on the Coralville and Iowa City bus system.

Anonymous said...

Any 9:28

And yet, were supposed to takes Lori's word for the fact that the Forest View families have cars whereas the Kirkwood parents don't.

Anonymous said...

7:20 Anonymous - I'm trying to figure out who you are considering moving out of Liberty in order to move in Kirkwood.

"there are Coralville and N. Liberty kids who will attend Liberty so either could be moved."

"N. Liberty kids" must mean Van Allen kids. It wouldn't be Garner or Penn or the far north Grant kids and Wickham is already at West. You are talking about sending Van Allen kids to West which is seven miles away versus Liberty to make room for Kirkwood kids.

"Coralville kids" would be the Grant Elementary kids. Grant is across the street from Liberty. All other Coralville kids are already at West.

Bad ideas

Anonymous said...

9:28 don't be so patronizing. Lots of families have transportation issues that cars and buses aren't helping with now and transportation concerns could be solved with effort prior to the start of Liberty. The district owns some vehicles, some use Variety vans and there are also school employees who can help as part of their job. North Liberty could also help unless it doesn't want Kirkwood kids in their schools.

The district isn't doing so well with getting low income kids to participate in extras at many schools so this could be looked into as well.

Mary said...

With regard to capacity and overcrowding at the high school level, my understanding and observation has been that not all high school students reported as enrolled at a given ICCSD high school are physically present in the high school at the same time. Some students attend Kirkwood, some take courses at the University of Iowa, some are at Transitions, and some students leave at lunchtime. Also, some students aren't taking many courses. There may be other reasons for students not being present on campus as well.

In addition, the trend is moving toward more online learning at the university level which may very well be seen at the high school level some day soon. I can envision a situation where this benefits some of the high school students who have a hard time getting up in the morning or getting themselves to school or perhaps enjoy independent learning.

Anonymous said...

If that is the justification for overcrowding LHS, we also need to cancel the next addition at City.

Frank said...

Not that I completely disagree with Chris' projections on Liberty with and without Kirkwood, but as he stated they are full of lots of caveats and assumptions.

Here' what not caveated: If you don't move more students out of West NOW, it will be over capacity the 2nd year Liberty opens. More students have to be shifted out of West.

Building a new high school and leaving an existing high school at capacity is just ridiculous.

Anonymous said...


Not true. Second year West MIGHT be AT capacity. Liberty will under because only freshman, sophomore, and juniors are required to attend Liberty that year. The seniors will still have the option to attend West.

Look at the next year. West loses all seniors to Liberty, so West's enrollment drops. IF you took 200 kids from Kirkwood and put them at Liberty on top of that, Liberty would be significantly over capacity and West would be significantly under.

Frankj, you have no worries about West being over capacity. Your worry is with Liberty if Kirkwood is moved there. It's an even bigger worry if the bond fails.

Anonymous said...

Seems like capacity numbers benefit developers and builders most. How realistic are these numbers?

Anonymous said...

So sick of City High and FRL Mafia. All they care about is numbers on reports and that damn school and they will say ANYTHING to try to give it an advantage. Years ago it was the wrongly named "Diversity Policy" - "We care about FRL kids - that's why we want to kick them out of City and bring in low FRL kids from Coralville - for their own good." Now overcrowding and capacity is suddenly their concern. They form another group with a B.S. name "Every Student, all Schools" and they want to force Kirkwood kids out of West so they can protect their east side property values. It is NOT about helping the FRL kids or they would listen to what the families are saying. Or they would look at the elementary schools. I CALL B.S.!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the East Side FRL Mafia? Who is the lady from Shimek calling people who want a good look at this plan "white supremacist?" She sends her kids to 88% white Shimek and what? now that they are moving on to JH and HS she wants to make sure those Alexander kids don't over populate her kids next school with to much poorness and blackness? Where was she the last 5 years working on integrating the elementary schools? Shimek is one of the least diverse schools in the district and its close to Mann but kids from Foster Rd couldn't get into Shimek. We see how it is lady keep talking smack. It's not just the people west of the river who are offended by your efforts the last 8 years any more.